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Bellingham Seniors Need Mental Health Support During These Turbulent Time

Jun 01, 2020 03:00PM ● By Pamela Johnson
Gail Bourassa (pictured above), the coordinator of the Elder Mental Health Outreach Team (EMHOT), has for 30 years been assisting local residents who are dealing with “acute or chronic stressors or illness.” You can reach her by email at [email protected] or call (508) 657-2791. Following are her thoughts on COVID-19:

Given that the entire world is in a highly stressful situation right now, it is no surprise that I am fielding many more calls from individuals in our area about stress, anxiety, frustration, and depression. Since I have this opportunity to talk about the program, I’d like to offer some observations and information that I share with most clients and callers.

We fear the unknown. With this pandemic, much is unknown. We have never known a situation like this before. One little virus has changed so much of our daily life, and we are being asked to rely on what others tell us to minimize the risk we face. Thankfully, even though we may not like keeping a distance from others and being scrupulous about cleaning, most of us are doing it for our own good... and the good of those we love.

So, we are trying to be grateful for what we have, use our sense of humor, focus on what really matters, take good care of ourselves, learn something new, and connect with others when we can, but it is still stressful. Our routines have changed, many things we did to cope with stress are not available to us now, we have new worries, and we do not know when this will end or what life will look like afterward. In other words, it is “normal” to feel more emotional and stressed even in an “abnormal” situation.

As trite as it may sound, human beings are amazingly adaptable, and that includes you. So please, find a way to hold onto the wide range of emotions you are going through. They are ALL normal.

Hold onto gratitude and still feel justified when you complain, look for beauty even while you see bad news on television, find a place to get some exercise but don’t feel bad if you rest more than usual, feel a part of humanity’s global struggle even when at other times you feel alone. But most of all, look after your little corner of the world, no matter how small it is, because if this pandemic has taught us anything it is that EVERYTHING is connected and we all play a role.

The Elder Mental Health Outreach Program has been up and running in the Blackstone Valley since June 2016. Bellingham and five surrounding towns thought a large number of older adults could benefit from easier access to support and treatment for stress and psychological concerns. So, in addition to the existing resources in our area (e.g., libraries, senior centers, churches), Bellingham began administering the grant. In the first month of the program, 14 people were seen and now, on average, at least 39 individuals are seen each month. In fact, the program is so successful that the state decided to make the program a part of the annual budget and increase the number of programs in the state from three to seven.

Gail offers Women’s Wellness, a discussion group via Zoom, on Fridays at 12:30pm. Please email her at [email protected] to join in.






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